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Illinois Leads the Midwest in Cannabis Reform


I’m sitting at the airport in Oakland, California, waiting for my flight to Chicago. I booked this flight months ago when we first decided to start the first Puff, Pass & Paint CBD class in Chicago, and the timing couldn’t be more fortuitous, because today, June 25th 2019, recreational cannabis was signed into law in Illinois by Governor JB Pritzker.

This is a huge deal for me personally, not only because the goal of our company is to promote legalization and normalization, and ultimately encourage national legalization, but also because I’m from the Midwest… I grew up in a small town about an hour north of Chicago, across the border into Wisconsin. My parents own a petting farm in rural Waterford, where I grew up riding an elderly pony and collecting fresh chicken eggs every morning. I started smoking at the age of 15, when my friend introduced me to buying dime bags of schwag weed from some dude in a white van parked behind the Piggly Wiggly (if you aren’t familiar, it’s a midwestern grocery store chain and the mascot is a PIG WEARING A BUTCHER’S OUTFIT. Come on, that’s just wrong). We used to drive around smoking badly rolled joints of even crappier weed, crouched down in the backseat of my 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit convertible, which leaked horribly when it rained or snowed (which it does a lot of in the Midwest), worried that the one cop in town would see us with smoke rolling out the holes in the rag top.

While states along the East and West coasts are legalizing rec like dominos, the plant is still highly demonized in quite a few midwestern states, and reefer madness still abounds. Illinois is the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis, and they’re making groundbreaking moves from the very beginning to ensure that they aren’t just filling the pockets of rich investors and paving the way for lots of tax dollars, but also setting up social programs, investing in communities, and making promises to release non-violent drug offenders from the overflowing criminal justice system. 

The Governor promises not to leave behind the communities that have suffered most heavily from the war on drugs, and says that Illinois is “putting forward the most equity-centric cannabis legalization in the nation”. This new law offers the complete expungement of 700,000 people with past cannabis convictions: anyone convicted of selling up to 30 grams of cannabis can now gain executive clemency through the governor. Convictions up to 500 grams allow an individual or attorney to petition the court in order to have those criminal records wiped out.

I’m going to be honest, I’m sitting here writing this with tears in my eyes, because this is how it should be… no one should be in prison, especially serving an extensive or life term, for a non-violent drug offense, ever. The fact that this is happening in the Midwest is absolutely crucial, as it shows that the nature of the game is changing, and public perception has been swayed and continues to be influenced by people like you, coming out of the closet with your cannabis use, talking to people, pushing for legalization and normalizing by your actions and your words. I’m really proud of Illinois. I’m really proud of my humble stomping grounds, even if the winters really suck. Congrats Illinois!

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